Q: I keep seeing ads for the Windows 8 Consumer Preview that I can download to test out but not sure if I should. What are your thoughts? — Paula
A: Stop! Do not pass go! Do not touch that mouse! Stop, drop and roll! Run away!
I guess what I am trying to say to you and any other curious consumer: absolutely not.
The next generation of the Windows family of operating systems is getting quite a bit of publicity and is being discussed in some circles as the most significant thing to come from Microsoft in a long time.
I won’t spend time on whether I think it will be that significant or the second coming of Windows Vista in this column because it’s still a work in progress and that is why I am stressing that you not fall for the hype.
Microsoft did the unsuspecting computer-using public a disservice by calling the beta version (tech speak for an unfinished program) of Windows 8 a ‘Consumer Preview’.
When most folks hear ‘preview’ they equate it to a quick sample or a sneak peak of something, not a complete transformation of your operating system that can’t be reversed.
Beta software should never be marketed to the general consumer (shame on you, Microsoft!); it’s for techies that understand that they are playing with an unfinished product and are volunteering to be a guinea pig.
I’ve already encountered numerous unsuspecting consumers that fell for the hype and installed the ‘Consumer Preview’ and rendered their computers virtually useless because of the usual list of incompatible hardware and software that always exists with a new operating system.
The only people that should consider installing this version of Windows 8 are tech savvy users with computers that they don’t care about or rely upon for daily productivity. IT managers, software developers and web designers have valid reasons to start testing this unfinished product, but the average ‘consumer’ should run like the life of their computer depended upon it (because it may!)
Despite Microsoft’s attempts to scan your hardware and warn of incompatibilities that might exist before you take the plunge, they can’t possibly know all of the issues until a couple million guinea pigs provide them with feedback on what’s still broken.
For instance, one of our test machines that passed all the hardware tests during the pre-install scan was no longer able to connect to our wifi network after the install because of missing drivers for the USB controller and the USB wireless adapter.
Folks in the tech industry know how to deal with this type of an issue, but imagine if the same thing happened to someone at home with only one computer. They wouldn’t have any way to connect to the Internet to research how to fix the problem and this is just one example.
At the bottom of Microsoft’s download page is this warning:
“Important: If you decide to go back to your previous operating system, you’ll need to reinstall it from the recovery or installation media that came with your PC, which is typically DVD media. If you don’t have recovery media, you might be able to create it from a recovery partition on your PC using software provided by your PC manufacturer. Check the support section of your PC manufacturer’s website for more information. After you install Windows 8, you won’t be able to use the recovery partition on your PC to go back to your previous version of Windows.”
Windows 8 has a lot of promise, but until the bakers are done baking, don’t dip your finger into the batter!
Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the Data Doctors Radio Program, noon Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM or at www.datadoctors.com/radio. Readers may send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.